Kodaikanal owes its personality and fame to the American Missionaries and British Bureaucrats who recognized and appreciated its worth and established it as a renowned summer getaway. The present day Kodaikanal reveals the demeanor that depicts the fine spectrum of erstwhile tribal life, medieval British and American influence and contemporary modern Tamil character. The maximum population of Kodaikanal comprises of the Tamilians, while the indigenous tribes known as Puliyans and Paliyans make the minority section of the inhabitants. These aboriginal clans dwelling in this hilly area since 1st century AD are hunters and gatherers by origin, but now they are increasingly being incorporated into the main stream community life. Constantly frequented by the tourists from every part of the globe today, Kodaikanal mirrors a colorful populace all round the year.
The chief languages spoken in Kodaikanal are Tamil and English. The economy of the residents here mainly depends upon the tourism industry, agriculture, plantations and cattle husbandry. Apart from its captivating scenic beauty and pleasing climate, Kodaikanal is principally admired by the tourists for its special shopping delights such as assorted cheeses, home made chocolates, herbal tea, coffee, spices, marshmallows, jam, peanut butter, brown bread, muffins, eucalyptus oil, herbal oils, aromatic oils, winter oil, flowers, fruits, woolen clothes, Tibetan warm clothes, shawls, leather items, handloom, handicrafts, embroidery, ceramic items, toys, jewellery, bone and walnut wood articles, and so on.
Major festivals celebrated at Kodaikanal include Pongal, Jallikkattu, Miladi Sherif, Mother Salette Festival, Natyanjali Festival, Chithirai Festival, Tourist Fair, Summer Festival, Dance Festival, Tea and Tourism Festival, Deepavali, Christmas and so on.
Pongal, celebrated in the month of January is a four days harvest festival that begins with the last day of the Tamil month Margazhi and continues for next three days of the Tamil month Thai. The first day of Pongal is ‘Bhogi’ when people clean their houses. The second day is celebrated as ‘Surya Pongal’ in the honor of Lord Sun when a delicacy named ‘Chakkara Pongal’ made from rice and jaggery is prepared and homes are decorated with Kolam designs. ‘Mattu Pongal’ is the third day when cattle are ceremonially bathed and adorned with flowers and beads. ‘Kaanum Pongal’, the fourth day of this festival is the day of meeting relatives and friends. On this day the agricultural labourers are honored.
Jallikkattu is a native version of bullfight which is held on the forth day of Pongal festival. Audacious men risk their lives and try to bring the violent bulls under control. Either gold or money is tied to the horns of the bulls and the victor gets it all. In ancient times the competition of Jallikkattu was organized even to select the most worthy groom for the most sought after belle of the town. Getting injured and occasional deaths are common in this sport and yet teenagers, youngsters as well as middle aged men participate in this dangerous game with unmatchable enthusiasm and valor. The bulls let loose in this traditional sport are specially fed and reared for the occasion of Jallikkattu.
Natyanjali Festival is a four days long festival that is celebrated in the month of February or March. This festival commences from the day of Mahashivratri and is celebrated in the honor of Lord Nataraja, the dancing form of Lord Shiva and the God of dancers. On the occasion of Natyanjali Festival, dancers from every corner of the country gather at Kodaikanal and pay their homage at the feet of Lord Nataraja by performing various dances.
Chithirai Festival named after the Tamil month Chithirai is a ten days traditional festival celebrated in the month of April. The central and most important event of this religion based festival is the procession of Lord Kallazhagar; the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, carried out with tremendous grandeur and pomp. A large number of devotes as well as the tourists participate in this event with unequalled passion and devotion.
Mother Salette Festival is celebrated at the Mother Salette Church which is regarded to be 133 years old edifice of Kodaikanal. Every year in the month of August a nine days majestic and grand festival is organized here when thousands of people from every corner of Tamil Nadu, as well as myriads of tourists gather at Kodaikanal to partake in the fête. The festival reaches its culmination on 14th and 15th August when the entire Hill Station dips in the mood of revelry and jollification.
Miladi Sherif is celebrated in the month of April on the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the Islam. On the occasion of Miladi Sherif, special prayers are organized at various mosques of the city as well as at several specifically arranged prayer enclosures. The community prayer is followed by an extravagant social dinner. Sweets and delicacies are also distributed amongst the friends and neighbors on this occasion. The communal harmony of the Muslim people is particularly revealed through the celebration of Miladi Sherif.
Summer Festival of Kodaikanal finds its origin in the fact that formerly this place was developed by the Americans and the British as their summer retreat. This festival exclusively organized in the month of May draws millions of domestic as well as international tourists to Kodaikanal when a number of exciting and entertaining sports, adventure and cultural activities are held. Apart from the zeal and merriment of the Summer Festival, the beauty of Kodaikanal and the pleasant and agreeable climate of this hill resort add to the tourism appeal of the locus. Boat races, flower exhibitions, fruit shows and several other shows comprise the heart of the Summer Festival of Kodaikanal.
Tea and Tourism Festival of Kodaikanal is widely reckoned in every part of India as well as in foreign countries. Usually celebrated during the last week of January, this three days festival is organized by the Tourism Department. At the time of this outstanding festival, multiple varieties of tea are demonstrated where tourists arrived from all over the world taste the assortment of tea and also buy them. They also enjoy the mouth watering cuisine of South India and witness the cultural programs organized here.